Carbohydrates are aldehydes or ketones that are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The basic carbohydrate unit is a sugar molecule - monosaccharides- glucose, galactose and fructose. Carbohydrates make up almost all the organic matter on Earth and are important to all forms of life.
Our liver breaks down carbohydrates into glucose before producing the energy molecule adenosinetriphosphate (ATP). This energy is needed for our cells, tissues and various organs. The carbohydrates are the most common source of energy for our body.
While the carbohydrates are not essential nutrients as the body can obtain all its energy from fats and protein, the brain and neurons need carbohydrates (glucose) for energy.
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Carbohydrates are simple or complex, depending on how fast our body absorbs the sugar. Simple carbohydrates contain one or two sugar units, while complex carbohydrates consist of three or more sugar units bonded together in a chain. Complex carbohydrates and some simple carbohydrates provide vitamins, minerals and fiber.
The refined carbohydrates lack in natural nutrients and are likely to get converted into fat which is stored in the body. They produce blood sugar spikes in the body which is bad for pancreas and lead to diabetes and obesity.
Refined foods are bad carbohydrates because they loose their nutrients in the process of refinement. examples of bad carbohydrates are all processed foods such as white bread, pastries, cakes, pasta, custard, white rice, pudding, sweets, jelly, jams, fruit drinks, sodas, colas, etc.
The digestive enzymes takes time to break the sugar chain in the complex carbohydrates into individual sugars. Therefore, the complex carbohydrates get absorbed gradually, maintaining the blood sugar level.
Some of the complex carbohydrates or high carbohydrate foods are:
Bagel, barley, beans, bran, breads (brown, pitta, whole meal), brown rice, buckwheat, cereals, cassava, corn, cornmeal, lentils, macaroni, muesli, shredded wheat, spaghetti, oats, peas, pasta, potatoes, yam, wheatbix, wheat germ, etc.
Fruits, milk products and sugar contain simple carbohydrates, while whole-grains, cereals, starchy vegetables, lentils and legumes are complex carbohydrate foods.
Carbohydrates require less water to digest than proteins or fats.
1 gram of carbohydrate contains 3.75 calories, while proteins and fats contain 4 and 9 calories per gram respectively.
How Much Carbohydrate is needed?
The Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization recommend that 55-75% of total energy should come from carbohydrates, but only 10% directly from simple carbohydrates, i.e. sugars.